For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, “They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands. Nehemiah 6:9
Reflecting on Easter, on Whose death and resurrection we celebrate and actually I’m reminded by a dear friend that “celebrate” really is the wrong word regarding His death. “Anguish” would be better appropriated for what we feel with Him during that part of Lent, but Easter morning…. Easter morning we do celebrate that mighty victory!!
As we recognize that Jesus did life with such a burden of not only daily demands but with the overhead looming task of the cross ever before Him, that was never lifted, we can see He somehow pressed on for the purpose of the celebration!
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
This is such grand encouragement for us sojourning through this land that is not our home isn’t it!!! I mean I read in Daniel 3 about the incredible emboldening faiths of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in verse 16-18 when they reply boldly to the nasty King, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” and I pray desperately for this kind of faith don’t you!
I’m so glad that God does bring these three men through the fire unharmed with no smell of smoke on them. Praise Him He is able!!! He is able to take you in, and through, a fire and have you emerge without even a hint of smoke smell upon you! I’ve seen and experienced Him work like this and I do praise Him! But verse 18 starts with, “But even if he does not…” and I think none of us can really ever prepare for what the “even if” might mean in our lives which is why for me it requires sincere prayer for ever increasing faith and trust in the One who does hold the whole plan for my life, and those I love, in His hands.
What I find so encouraging in recognizing today that Jesus lived His whole life on earth with the heart ache of the cross ahead of Him, is that it emboldens my faith for the “Even though” things in my life. What I mean is that when “even if” didn’t end like I was hoping it would and I have to keep the faith and trust my Jesus that now, “even though it didn’t fix…” and it seems there may always be moments that constrict my lungs and threaten my heart to stop in fear and heart ache, I have His example to follow. He made it through not just surviving but thriving in His ministry despite the horrific pressure of the looming cross on His journey!!! So He knows what it’s going to take, and has the strength for me to thrive in the “even if” AND the “even though” trials in my life! And for yours too dear one!!!
This in no way means it will be easy, just doable. John 8:29 Jesus says, The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him. He could DO the things that pleased the Father while on earth and while enduring such heavy burdens because Jesus knew He was not alone. What does Jesus tell us in Matthew 28:20?! …And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. He is with us, so we can do too!!!
It’s easy to give up, to fall away from the faith full of doubts and uncertainties especially when the lies of the world say it’s way is good, pleasing and desirable! Isn’t that how Eve described the apple that caused her to trip up in Genesis 3:6!? And Jesus plainly tells us the road to heaven is narrow and few find it (Matt. 7:14). Could it be because the three words He uses in Luke 9:23 to describe walking with Him are deny, take up and follow?! Hmmmm good, pleasing, desirable or deny, take up, and follow…. yet look at how it turned out for Eve…. and Jesus says His way, The Way leads to eternal life! It’s the only way that does not lead to a question mark!
Jesus submitted to the harder way and won the opportunity for me to choose eternity with Him! This is what we celebrate!! He didn’t stay dead He rose, He is alive today!! He walked the hard walk all the way through to take His seat at the right hand of the throne of God!! So He knows full well the strength you and I need to make it through to the other side and He is extending it! I pray to be like Ezra in Ezra 7:28, Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage…
Jesus because You are with me and have gone before me, I take courage! I will not let what I know is good to be spoken of as evil. Apart from You I can do nothing, so thank you for bringing me this far. Because of Your great love for me, and because You are rich in mercy, You have made me alive with You even when I was dead in sin – it is by grace I have been saved and You have raised me up and seated me with You in the heavenly realms. So I will take courage and take up faith in the promise that is already but not yet, but is to come because You are alive! You are alive so “even if…” or “even though…” I know in You Jesus I can rise and thrive all they way to the celebration You won for me in Your Kingdom.
Independent Read: Philippians 2:5-11, Ephesians 4:1-2, Psalm 37:4, Psalm 1:2-3, Zephaniah 3:12-17, Deuteronomy 31:8, John 15:5, Romans 14:16, Genesis 50:20, Revelation 19:11-16